Improving customer loyalty is the best way to increase revenue at minimal expense. Loyal customers demonstrate their commitment to your company by purchasing regularly and promoting your brand freely. Some companies try to buy loyalty with member rewards and discounts. The programs encourage short term loyalty but don’t create the solid connections established over time by consistently delivering quality customer care.
The best customer care begins at ground level with the employees that serve them. How can people who don’t believe in their company’s products and services convince others without a vested interest to believe? If the products and services aren’t good enough for the employees, why should anyone else buy them?
American car companies provide a good example of employees failing the company loyalty test. When the Ford and GM assembly plants were actively building cars in Atlanta, their employee parking lots were filled with foreign cars. It always bothered me when I passed their facilities on my way to visit clients. One day my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to do a little analysis and found that GM employees were slightly more loyal than Ford with 23% driving GM models to Ford’s 21%. Within the next two years, both plants closed.
The news of the closings was covered by every television station in Atlanta. When the employees were interviewed, they blamed the economy, competition, and management. They didn’t notice that they were the first break in the chain. If they had taken pride in the products they were producing and shown that pride by driving the vehicles, there may have been a different outcome. It would have set an example for their neighbors and provided additional insight into the functionality of the product. Research and development could have included everyone in the organization instead of a single department.
When team members aren’t interested in their company’s products or services, it shows. It may not be as obvious as an employee parking lot for a car company, but customers and prospects see, feel, and hear it. The tone in the customer care representative’s voice, the look the sales clerk gives, and the thick air in the office that surrounds people when they aren’t enthusiastic about their jobs send customers the message that loyalty isn’t valued.
If you want to create a loyal customer base, start with the people who serve those customers. Treat them well, encourage their feedback, and make it easy for them to use your products and services. There is no training that is as effective as the hands on experience one receives when using a product or service. When your employees are happy customers, their enthusiasm is contagious and spreads to the people who buy. To create an employee loyalty program:
- Provide great employee discounts and first opportunities at super sales. This is especially needed in high end retail due to the gap between product pricing and pay scales. Making items affordable increases the number of employee customers and reduces turnover for people who love your items.
- Reward employees for jobs well down with shopping bucks that can be used to buy products. The recognition for doing good work improves morale and encourages people to do better.
- Ask for feedback from employees using company products. The people who work for your company have a unique view. They can see challenges from both customer and employee perspective.
- Give employees first shopping rights at warehouse or special sales. They’ll appreciate the respect and your sale will start off right.
- If employees don’t shop with your company, ask why. They may know about problems hidden from management. Team members don’t always share what they know.
- Monitor customer loyalty to see the effect. Happy employee customers make the best sales people. Their enthusiasm is contagious.